Kyle Busch wins; Hamlin, Logano involved in last-lap wreck

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Kyle Busch came out on top of a frenetic final lap at Auto Club Speedway to bring Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota their first victory ever at the two-mile oval outside Los Angeles.

Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin were side-by-side on the white flag lap between Turns 3 and 4, when Logano suddenly slid up into Hamlin. Busch slipped by on the high line while Logano was turned into the Turn 4 wall, and Hamlin spun down the track and went into the inside retaining wall with enough force to send the car briefly airborne.

“They forgot about me,” Busch said to Fox Sports in Victory Lane. “I knew they were gonna, but I figured the spotters would say, ’18 is coming, you better stop messing around.’

“What a great day. This Camry was so fast all day…It’s so fun to come out here and perform like this, but to finally win it — it’s been three years in the making. We finished third a couple years ago, second last year, and first now this year.”

Hamlin’s window net came down after the wreck — usually known as a sign to safety workers that the driver is OK — but while he got out of the car under his own power, the Virginia native was taken to the infield care center in an ambulance. Word later came down from NASCAR that he was awake and alert, but would be transferred to a local hospital for evaluation.

When Logano was asked on the Fox broadcast about the wreck, he replied, “[Hamlin] probably shouldn’t have done what he did last week, so that’s what he gets.” Hamlin spun out Logano last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, igniting a scuffle between the two drivers.

To top it all off, Logano and Tony Stewart —  mad at how Logano blocked him down to the apron on the final restart of the day with 11 laps remaining — had their own physical conflict on pit road before they were separated by their respective crews.

“That little [expletive] runs us clear down to the infield,” a furious Stewart told Fox afterwards. “He wants to [expletive] about everybody else, and he’s the one that drives like a little [expletive]. I’m gonna bust his ass.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle completed the Top 5 finishers.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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